By NANCY COOK LAUER
An old hand is returning to the helm of the Hawaii County Council.
J Yoshimoto, a three-term councilman from Hilo, was selected chairman Sunday in a closed-door session attended by most of the incumbent and incoming council members. Yoshimoto was chairman during the 2008-2010 session.
North Kona Councilwoman-elect Karen Eoff was named vice chairwoman. Eoff has worked for years as legislative aide to outgoing North Kona Councilman Angel Pilago and in other support duties for the council.
“I’m very optimistic about the incoming council term. I think we have a lot to offer,” Yoshimoto said Wednesday. “The incoming council members bring a lot of positive energy, great ideas and spirit of aloha that will work well.”
The two officially take their positions after being sworn in on Dec. 3.
Political newcomer Greggor Ilagan, Puna Makai councilman-elect, who attended the meeting Sunday at Hamakua Councilwoman-elect Valerie Poindexter’s house, called it an eye-opening experience.
“I felt like we had a great group,” Ilagan said. “They’re all independent thinkers.”
Yoshimoto described the meeting as “very productive.”
“We had a good conversation,” Yoshimoto added.
“I feel real good. Coming out of it, I could feel the positive energy and the value that we’re going to bring to the table is just amazing,” Poindexter said.
Brenda Ford, the only other three-term councilor, now representing a sprawling newly redistricted South Kona/Ka‘u district, declined comment Wednesday.
While the council has in the past made an effort to have both an East Hawaii and West Hawaii council member in the top two spots, Yoshimoto said that wasn’t necessarily the case in the selection of Eoff. Instead, he said, the members chose Eoff for her collaborative spirit, ability to work with others and her solution-oriented approach.
Ford was named chairwoman of the Mass Transit and Public Safety Committee, with Kohala Councilwoman-elect Margaret Wille vice charwoman.
Hilo Councilman Dennis Onishi, the third incumbent, will head the Intergovernmental Relations Committee, which now also includes Economic Development. Ilagan will be vice chairman.
Poindexter, who has experience in accounting, was named chairwoman of the Finance Committee, which sets the property tax rate and handles the county budget and other revenue and expenditure issues. Ilagan, who was studying accounting at Hawaii Community College, was named vice chairman.
Central Kona Councilman-elect Dru Kanuha will head the Public Works Committee, with Onishi vice chairman.
Wille will lead the Committee on Agriculture, Water and Energy Sustainability, with Poindexter vice chairwoman.
Puna Mauka Councilman-elect Zendo Kern was named chairman of the Planning Committee, with Wille vice chairwoman, and the Environmental Management Committee, with Kanuha vice chairman.
Eoff will lead the Committee on Human Services and Social Services, with Poindexter vice chairwoman.
Ilagan was named chairman of the Hawaii County Housing Agency, a board made up of all the County Council members and devoted to public housing and subsidized housing issues.
Mayor Billy Kenoi said he’s looking forward to working with the new council.
“It’s exciting to have such an enthusiastic and energetic new group to work with,” Kenoi said. “I’m looking forward to hearing new ideas. It’s going to be fun.”
Email Nancy Cook Lauer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter Sur contributed to this report.